It’s tough to side with Alex Rodriguez for many reasons. One is that he is said to have portraits of himself as a centaur hanging in his bedroom. It’s tough to side with somebody who would think up such paintings, let alone commission them.
It’s not tough to argue that at least some of the rules which Alex Rodriguez has been accused of breaking are arbitrary. In a culture where people employed to do lots of things more significant than playing baseball legally use all sorts of drugs to enhance the way they perform all sorts of tasks, it can certainly be argued that banning people employed to play baseball from using particular drugs is a public relations move rather than a strategy to protect the integrity of the game.
Still, it’s hard to root for a tone-deaf narcissist who lacks the wit to recognize that if he keeps breaking the rules he’s previously acknowledged breaking, there will be consequences, no matter how arbitrary the rules.
It’s also tough to side with Commissioner Bud Selig, who might charitably be described as a hypocrite. He was happy to see the business over which he presides profit from the home run duels staged by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. He was equally happy — maybe even happier — to see Alex Rodriguez celebrated as the antidote to the so-called “steroid era” those two home run hitters came to represent. Now he is happy to stand as the guardian of the game’s integrity by imposing an unprecedented ban on the same Alex Rodriguez.
So what are baseball fans to do?
Perhaps they should do what fans have done for generations when it has come to their attention that some of the players conspire with bookmakers or otherwise muck up the game. They should enjoy the grace with which the shortstop playing for their team glides to his right, scoops up a ground ball, strides, and delivers the ball to the first baseman on a line.
Perhaps they should do what fans have done for generations when they have learned that with the assistance of a commissioner, the owners have illegally colluded to depress wages, or when they have learned that owners have thought so little of what they call the “integrity” of the game that they have been willing to create a hole in the history of that game by eliminating a season in the name not of profit, but of more profit.
They should watch attentively as a patient pitcher employed by the side they support so effectively sets up a hitter by mixing up his pitches that in the end, the hitter seems grateful to ground weakly to the infield, because at least he no longer has to stand at the plate, looking like he’s a couple of moves behind the plot in a drama beyond his comprehension.
Perhaps that’s the takeaway this week, as it has been so often when players or owners or commissioners behaving selfishly or stupidly or illegally have discouraged fans. Watch the elements of baseball and you will see that – to borrow a metaphor from boxing – none of those bozos have laid a glove on the game.